So, I have a story to share:
I was talking to my cousin the other day and we were chatting about being vegan.
I am vegan; she is not.
However; she’s very supportive and even slightly interested. That being said, one of her immediate reactions when I asked if she considered trying it was, “Oh no, I cannot eat soy. Nope!”
Pump the breaks.
Is that all you think we vegans eat?
Man, wouldn’t our lives be so terribly sad if all we had to eat was soy-based food products? Don’t get me wrong, I happen to be a big fan of soy— helloooo tofu!— but I’m also happy that with the continuing surge of vegan and plant-based lifestyles, there are more options out there than ever before and we’re not limited by any means.
Now, just in case there are some others out there who have long wanted to transition to veganism but fear that this condemns them to a life of soy, I wanted to write this post.
Here, I present a brief rundown on what soy is, what foods you can find it in, the pros and cons of consuming it, and some nice alternatives that you can swap in if it’s really just not for you!
Let’s get started…
What Is Soy?
Soy comes from the soybean, or soya bean, a legume thought to originate in eastern Asia many centuries ago.
I particularly like Merriam Webster’s definition: “a hairy annual Asian legume (Glycine max) widely grown for its oil-rich proteinaceous seeds and for forage and soil improvement”.
So soy has long been thought to be a good meat replacement as it contains high amounts of quality protein, along with other essential minerals and amino acids. It is also a fairly inexpensive food option and a staple in many diets around the world.
If you’d like to read more on the plant and its uses, go here.
What Types Of Food Contain Soy?
Soy can be found in many different foods. Some of the more commonly known ones are edamame, soybeans that are picked while they are still soft and green, prior to full maturation, and soy sauce, made using fermented soybeans.
Other foods that could contain traces of soy that may surprise you are breads, cereals, crackers, whipped cream, coffee whiteners, cookies, salad dressing, and yogurt, and is usually used as an additive for more protein.
For us vegans, we are used to finding soy in, as I mentioned earlier, tofu, in meat substitutes, and as a dairy replacement in milk, cheese, and the like.
Are There Health Benefits To Consuming Soy?
Now, I’m not here to tell you whether or not to eat soy, but simply to provide some information that you can use to explore further and figure out if soy consumption is for you.
When it comes to the health effects, this is where things get murky.
Advocators say how soy can help thwart obesity, lower cholesterol and even reduce the risks of certain cancers, while critics say it leads to hormone imbalance, like hot flashes and fertility issues, and insist there’s no evidence to show it has any real effect on preventing cancer or other diseases.
A recent study out of McGill University in Canada compared soy milk to rice milk and almond milk and found that, nutrition-wise, soy is the best alternative to cows milk.
I don’t know if or when the true effects of soy will ever be agreed upon, which makes it all the more important to continue educating yourself on what you’re putting into your body.
What Options Are There That Can Replace Soy?
A lot of people don’t consume soy because they have soy allergies, which is what my cousin was actually getting at. She said it upsets her stomach.
If it’s a flavour or texture thing and tofu makes you dry heave, why not try tempeh?
Bottom line, when there is a will, there is a way!
Wrapping Things Up
Believing you need to include soy in your vegan diet is like believing the lifestyle will make you die of protein deprivation.
It’s just not the case.
Educate yourself and others around you so that you never find yourselves struggling with a lack of options. The options are there and the choice is yours, so enjoy!
What’s your favourite way to get protein? Do you like tofu or is it overrated? Leave your comments below; I’m happy to chat!